Today and always, astronauts on mission in Space consume little fresh food. And yet, when establishing a base on the Moon and a colony on Mars, a way will have to be found to generate food there.
Feeding in Space
As part of the Proxima mission, the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet had occupied the International Space Station (ISS) from November 2016 to June 2017. The latter will return there in April 2021, aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. During his stay aboard the ISS, he had notably tasted small dishes prepared by great starred chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Thierry Marx. On the menu ? Breton or creamy lobster with lemon, duck breast or even poultry in Parmentier. And yet, it was not about fresh food. Indeed, it took take away cans from Earth.
As explained by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) in a publication of 2019, the food to consume in Space must meet certain criteria. For example, it must be compact and light, because the space on board is limited and the transport of products very expensive. Foods must also be very nutritious for a healthy diet, without forgetting their flavor.
In addition to the few fresh products and “plain” foods (to be consumed as is), food is very often presented in canned, dried, dehydrated, heat-stabilized or even irradiated. However, when it comes to establishing a lunar village and a Martian colony involving very long stays, it will be necessary to find a solution to cook on the spot. In addition to vegetable growing, another possibility is being considered: aquaculture (or fish culture). However, if the vegetable garden in microgravity presents several advantages, the protein outlook are quite inconclusive.
As explained Hakai Magazine in an article from February 22, 2021, IFREMER researcher Cyrille Przybyla is behind the Lunar Hatch project. The goal? Allow astronauts to breed fish in space. According to A press release, the fish are in a large tank and receive “New sources of protein and lipids” as food. In addition, their effluents are recycled using microalgae. He believes that the next long-duration space expeditions should instead take fertilized eggs which according to him will withstand travel much better than fish.
In order to gain certainty as to the feasibility of the thing, Cyrille Przybyla subjected fish eggs to a take-off simulation. The latter survived and between 76 and 95% of them subsequently hatched. This success rate is also quite close to the “control group” with eggs that have not undergone any vibration.
In addition, the researcher estimates that certain fish species are not really suitable for a stay in Space. Indeed, the fish should not consume too much oxygen and should also resist temperature variations and cosmic radiation. Let us also mention the need to have a reduced time for hatching. Thus, sea bass and meager are more interesting species than salmon and cod.
Finally, Cyrille Przybyla mentioned other positive aspects concerning this innovation. According to him, having a fish farm could be a source of well-being for astronauts. This installation would remind them of life on Earth. In addition, taking care of livestock and vegetable crops would provide them with a bit of distraction.